New study finds link between Covid infection and higher risk of developing diabetes in some children

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  • A study looked at health records of children under 18 to determine post-Covid-19 diabetes diagnosis.
  • Children who had Covid-19 were matched with those without a history of Covid infection.
  • The study found that SARS-CoV-2 accelerated diabetes diagnosis in children.

It is well established that people with diabetes have a higher risk of severe Covid-19 and poor outcomes when infected.

Now a new study has found that children infected with Covid-19 have an increased risk of becoming diabetic when compared to their uninfected peers.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study evaluated a possible link between diabetes and Covid-19 infection in children under the age of 18.

The researchers collected data from US medical claims databases. They assessed children who had a positive Covid-19 test and matched them with peers who did not test positive for Covid-19 or had a history of the virus.

The first dataset had information on almost 81 000 children with Covid-19 with an average age of 12 years. The second dataset involved more than 439 000 under-18-year-olds who tested positive for Covid-19.

Increased diabetes risk

The study found that new diabetes diagnoses were 166% higher in the first data set and 31% higher in the second set. 

The researchers state that the link between diabetes and Covid-19 might be attributed to the effects of Covid-19 infection on organ systems involved in diabetes risk.

The virus might lead to diabetes through a direct attack on pancreatic cells, while other diabetes cases may have been caused indirectly through pandemic-related risks like an increase in body mass index, a risk factor in both severe Covid-19 and diabetes.

'Accelerated' diabetes 

The study results also show that a percentage of these new diabetes cases likely occurred in persons who had prediabetes before contracting Covid-19.

In a report by the CBC News, experts say that children who were found to have diabetes after Covid-19 infection were already at risk of having the disease, but Covid-19 expedited their diabetes.

"We're seeing so many more kids come in with diabetes. And they're more sick," said Dr Sheela Natesh Magge, the director of the pediatric endocrinology division at Johns Hopkins.

Magge said the study confirms that the pandemic put children at greater risk of diabetes in an environment already at play before the pandemic.

"If you already were at risk, the pandemic probably made it worse. The stress of any infection can increase blood sugars and can make you have a higher risk of any of the complications of diabetes because your blood sugars could get higher."

The study recommends that children in this age group get vaccinated as part of diabetes prevention strategies. 

According to the CDC, more long term studies need to be conducted to define the potential association between Covid-19 and increased diabetes risk among children under 18.

*For more Covid-19 research, science and news, click here. You can also sign up for our Daily Dose newsletter here.

READ | Stress linked to greater risk of Covid-19 infection

READ | Early research from fourth wave Covid hospitalisations in the WC shows pneumonia less of a factor

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